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Sydney Garrity
Professor Werner
English 102
5 March 2016
Fear of Failure versus the Overall Picture
The generation currently overtaking the revolution that is going to soon occur is a
generation of doers, or so most think. As a whole, the visions that are created for people are
endless but the ones that are actually acted on are minuscule. Neal Stephenson had high hopes
for this society but believes that the fear of failure is currently holding the generation back from
going after the bigger picture. It must stop short before creating something great. Short-term
goals seem to be the more plausible to aim for but if the extra effort was put in, America would
not just be looked at as a country of dreamers, but ones that work for their dreams.
Possibility is the strength that people use to get themselves out of bed in the morning but
the fear of failing is what holds most back from going after the bigger picture. That feeling that
success isnt within the grasp is the first thing one has to overcome in order to achieve anything.
It is a mental process over anything; a persons mind has to be right in order to meet a goal. So
why is it that the society that thrives today is the one that is scared? Our world is so
technologically advanced it is difficult to believe that we hold any type of fear that will stop us
from proceeding further. With everything that is at our access, it is inevitable that we will further
the convenience and ease of how things are today.
Everyone has high hopes for how they want their lives to be and also how they picture
the outcome. Everyone wants the best, but few are willing to work to get it. Lack of motivation is
the biggest cause of failure. So how do people try to fix what stares them in the face? They avoid

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all problems that stand between the doer and the success they have the ability of achieving.
Robert C. Birney states The avoidance motive is one of being disposed to inhibit achievement
striving so that fear of failure will not occur (162). Motivation is something most lack but need
a way to find. In Stephensons argument, he insults the majority of Americans by saying that we
cant finish what we started. He states Innovation cant happen without accepting the risk that I
might fail (47). Even though he writes these words there is a part of him that doesnt fully
believe it. By painting the picture that something is not attainable it makes people want to prove
that fact wrong. It gives the right type of motivation to start acting on ideas.
Success is not attained on the first try. By making a mistake, you learn from it and know
what to do correctly next time in order to improve performance. Without error, people cannot be
attain success. It is important not to settle for the idea of complete success because a person will
never fully learn from their success if they do not constantly grow from it. Society needs to build
on the good to make it great and to keep going. Birney suggests that by attaining success
someone has to start small in order to work towards something great (112). It is not necessary to
start from scratch; expectations of a person arent meant to be too high that it is unattainable. If
every person left a small footprint on our world, it would overall be a better place to be. It seems
as if we are lacking so much as a whole that multiple people are going to have to go above and
beyond in creating something new in this world. It seems continuous that the same people are
creating similar things for a ridiculous price. New things should be happening.
If someone achieves greatness once he or she should not be satisfied with that for the rest
of his or her lives. Stephenson is an author of over a dozen novels, which span a range of genres
including SF, historical fiction, and cyberpunk. The recipient of numerous science fiction awards
(42). He is the prime example of how a person should try to grasp success. They should strive to

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attain it again. The possibility of failure is the problem that holds many people back but yet
people risk things as great as their lives for such a small outcome. People that serve greatly
exemplify this point. Most serve our country for honor and they would not give a second thought
to risking their lives if it meant they could be remembered as a hero. Hero or not, that person is
still in the ground. The chance of failing their families to come home to them is so great yet they
do it to be a good person or a good citizen. Life should be valued more than honor. However,
when greatness is plausible people coward to this too because of failure. Failure is a persons
biggest enemy, due to ones ego. You are your own worst enemy especially when doing
something outside your comfort zone.
There is so much that is possible but has not yet been attempted. Even simple things can
put others in awe just because they have tried something that another person hasnt. Losing
weight is attainable for almost anyone yet glorified because some people put in more work than
others. That is how our society needs to be as well. Instead of being in awe of someones work,
everyone should try to come together and be a part of that to add-on to something great.
Stephenson does have his doubts, by worrying that our inability to match the achievements of
the 1960s space program might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big
things done (43). He specifically expects more from that generation and it is obvious he is
trying to motivate them in the right direction.
So what is this bigger picture that most of us cannot seem to commit to? Its just that.
Commitment, and failure go hand and hand so why would you want waste time and energy into
something that may inevitably not work out? Well, that is where chance comes in. Anything is
possible with the right mindset. Stephenson mentions how things that were being innovated
generations back didnt look possible, yet it got done (47). This generation that is supposedly the

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generation of innovators needs to take a chance to get anything amazing accomplished. The
possibilities of any instance are endless but the outcomes that may or may not happen should not
hold a person back from trying to achieve greatness.
When trying to attain a goal, put any personal ego at rest in the back of the mind and
realize that he or she is capable of anything they set their mind to. It is not impossible, and it can
be done. However, failing is different than failing to try. Birney notices that many are so scared
to fail that they do not even attempt to achieve their goal (145). Failing leads to learning and
learning leads to doing it repeatedly until one gets it right. To put it simply, the generation that
makes up the mass amount that considers themselves doers is lazy. The amount that was
anticipated from the generation that made it seem that they would bring the most unheard of
things to other generations has been an extreme let down. So much talk of things that didnt seem
plausible just a few years ago. Both authors have the same goal in mind, motivate to make these
people achieve because there is so much that is anticipated to come. Where are the flying cars?
Why have the smart phones at hand break constantly? Why are servers so expensive even though
everyone uses them? It seems as if this is a generation of failures, not people that are afraid to
fail. In everything, they do as a whole something is holding them back. They need to stop letting
that fear hold them back and let the fear drive the ideas they have to do something that they
never thought they were capable of in the first place.

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Works Cited
Stephenson, Neal. Innovation Starvation Technology: A Reader for Writers, Johannah
Rodgers, New York City, NY, 2011. Print.
Birney, Robert Charles, Harvey Burdick, and Richard Collier Teevan. Fear of Failure.
New York: Van Nostrand-Reinhold, 1969. Print.